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Tuesday, 9 September 1958

Mr Webb (STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that the standard of education in Australia is suffering because of the continuing shortage of classrooms and teachers, the total inadequacy of vital equipment, and the consequent inability of State governments to raise the school leaving age?

2.   Are all States confronted with problems of finance in their endeavours to provide an effective education system?

3.   Will he consider making more finance available to the States in order to improve the standard of education?

Mr Menzies - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The answers to these questions are precisely the same as those given in reply to the same questions in this House on 11th September, 1956. I would draw the honorable member's attention to " Hansard " of this date, page 407.

3.   I dealt with this matter in the House earlier this year (6th May) when the question of education as a matter of urgent public importance was discussed, and again on 26th August when the Estimates of my department were debated. On those occasions I pointed out that the States have at all times insisted that when they receive money from the Commonwealth, whether it is by way of tax reimbursement or by way of supplement to the loan raisings, the States themselves should be masters of their own expenditure, and that they are not to be challenged by the Commonwealth as to how they ought to spend the money that they get. I went on to say that, over a period of seven years (1951-52 to 1957-58, inclusive), the States have had £2,725,000,000 to apportion to their own expenditures as they thought fit, and that, in fact, they apportioned £500,000,000 of that to education. When the honorable member for Stirling asked a similar question on the previous occasion I indicated that the finance to be made available to State governments from Commonwealth sources is determined each year by consultation between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister at Premiers conferences and meeting of the Australian Loan Council and that State needs in the field of education are taken into account in these deliberations.

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